Wes Craven

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

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1989

New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures

Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Produced by Robert Shaye and Rupert Harvey

Screenplay by Leslie Bohem

Story by John Skipp, Craig Spector and Leslie Bohem

Based on characters created by Wes Craven

There are those who will say that by the time the series got to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD, Ol’ Freddy Krueger and his antics were getting pretty tired. I don’t agree with that. There’s still a lot of talent hard at work in this one and in a lot of ways, it’s a better story than “The Dream Master” which invoked the rule of Just Go With It as opposed to adequately explaining its plot. At least here in THE DREAM CHILD, screenwriter Leslie Bohem respects the intelligence of the audience by providing a motivation and a reason for Freddy once more coming back to life. And it’s a pretty good idea Freddy has at that. The movie also boasts a Freddy Krueger that’s significantly more sadistic than he was in his earlier movies. The story is darker and the kills more gruesome and personal. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is the darkest movie of the series so far and will remain so until we get to “New Nightmare”

Life has finally become normal for Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox) She’s been dating Dan (Danny Hassel) they football jock she had a crush on in “The Dream Master” and they’re making plans to travel to Europe for summer vacation after high school graduation. Her dad (Nicholas Mele) has quit drinking and rebuilt a loving, healthy relationship with his daughter. She’s even got a whole new crew of BFF’s. Greta (Erika Anderson) is a leggy, gorgeous aspiring supermodel whose every move is closely monitored by her mother. Mark (Joe Seely) is a geek who plans on being a comic book artist and is madly in love with Greta. Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter) works as a candy striper at the local hospital.

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Yes, Alice’s life seems like it’s all going to be sunshine, lollypops and rainbows from here on out. Until the new nightmares start. Nightmares where Alice is dressed in a nun’s habit and wearing a nametag saying ‘Amanda Krueger.’ She’s in a lunatic asylum where she is attacked by the inmates. There are more dreams in which Alice, as Amanda, relives Freddy’s cursed birth by herself giving birth to him. Once again reborn, Freddy sets about killing Alice’s friends but leaving her alone. Alice discovers why after Dan’s shocking and unexpected death: she’s pregnant with Dan’s baby and Freddy has used the dreams of her unborn child to get into her dreams as well. Freddy needs her alive at least until her child is born. Alice’s friends are woefully unequipped to help her but she does have one powerful ally. Amanda Krueger’s spirit has joined the fight to aid Alice in defeating her damned son once and for all.

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Although Lisa Wilcox has improved a lot as an actress since “The Dream Master” the real star here is the special effects, the dream imagery and three of the most visually striking kills of the entire series. Dan is riding on a motorcycle that merges with him and both become this H.R. Giger inspired biomechanical demon. There’s a simply amazing shot of this creature roaring down a highway billowing smoke behind it. Mark falls asleep and is sucked into a black-and-white comic book where he is turned into a 2D character. When Freddy cuts him, instead of blood flowing out, it’s all the color from his body. Greta is fed to death. It’s a lot more creepy and grisly than it sounds, trust me.

The ending is also imaginatively done with Alice, Amanda and Freddy all trying to get to Alice’s son on M.C. Escher staircases that go every whichaway. It’s a fun scene to watch but we get back to the gruesomeness in the jaw dropping scene after that where Freddy tears his way out of Alice’s body. The special effects boys obviously had a field day in this movie and it shows. There’s some truly imaginative stuff done here.

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The acting is nothing to brag about. The cast of this movie are all nice to look at and they work hard at trying to create characters but it’s obvious way too early that these are just victims and outside of Alice don’t present any real threat to Freddy at all. Kelly Jo Minter gets the thankless job of being the one friend who doesn’t believe any of this Freddy Krueger stuff and so is stuck with repeating the same lines about Alice acting crazy over and over and over again. The few scenes that Erika Anderson and Joe Seely have are quite cute, though. His character’s crush on Greta is genuinely sweet and he does make a good impact on the screen when he states how much he loved her.

The two characters and actors who really stand out are supporting characters. There’s Whitby Hertford as Alice’s son, Jacob. Pazuzu only knows where the casting director found this kid from but his big sad eyes, deadpan expression and delivery of my favorite line of his: “Oh. Hello” tickled me to no end. And Nicholas Mele as Alice’s father dad gets to show a nice bit of character development in here. In “The Dream Master” he was an obnoxious, self-hating drunk unable to deal with the death of his wife and had lost touch with his kids. Apparently the death of his son in that movie pulled him together and in THE DREAM CHILD he’s a sober, fully supportive parent who’s going to AA meetings, grown back his spine and looks out for his daughter.

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But I can understand why A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD is considered to be a tired movie. By this time it’s pretty clear that nothing anybody can do is ever going to be enough to get rid of Freddy for good. The final scene makes that clear. So why continue with the series if Freddy’s never going to be defeated? I guess that’s why New Line decided to make the next one; “Freddy’s Dead” the last one. But Freddy certainly didn’t deserve to go out the way he does in that one.

But that’s a review for another time. You want to hear if A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD is worth your time. Well, if you’ve watched the first four then why wouldn’t you watch this one? It’s not a waste of time but it is one that you could have playing in the background while you’re doing other stuff and not feel as if you’re missing anything. Enjoy.

90 Minutes

Rated R

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

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1987

New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures

Directed by Chuck Russell

Produced by Robert Shaye

Screenplay by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell

Story by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner

Ask any fan of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series which is their favorite movie out of all of them. I think I am safe in saying that they’ll answer with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS. Hell, I know people who don’t like the series and you couldn’t pay them to watch any other movie in the series but they’ve seen and they like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS. It’s the “Wrath of Khan” of the series in that it’s the one just about everybody agrees is the best of the sequels and it’s the one everybody will claim as their favorite. No other Freddy Krueger movie would have such popularity with critics and audiences alike until “New Nightmare” came along years later.

And the reason for the popularity and the success is easy to understand when you take into account the talent involved. You’ve got Wes Craven returning to the series to write the screenplay with Frank Darabont who after this went on to write the screenplay for the remake of “The Blob” and after that wrote and directed “The Shawshank Redemption” “The Green Mile” and “The Mist” Chuck Russell also helped write the screenplay for this and went on to direct “The Blob” “The Mask” “Eraser” and “The Scorpion King”

Then in front of the camera you’ve got Heather Langenkamp returning to the series. Joining her you’ve got Patricia Arquette and Larry Fishburne who even this early in their careers turn in crackerjack performances. Add to that Craig Wasson who had proved himself as an actor to watch in movies such as “The Boys In Company C” “Ghost Story” and “Body Double” as well as an exceptionally strong supporting cast of young actors led by the wonderful Jennifer Rubin and yeah, it’s no surprise at all why A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS is as good as it is.

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Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) works in a special wing of the psychiatric hospital Westin Hills where he treats adolescents who share the same phobia about falling asleep and dreaming, claiming that there is somebody in their dreams trying to kill them. The patients are: Joey (Rodney Eastman) who has been so traumatized by his dreams that now he refuses to speak. Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) a tough kid with serious attitude issues and anger management difficulties. Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) who is not only fighting her dreams but her drug addiction. Will (Ira Heiden) who was so terrified of his dreams he tried to commit suicide. The attempt failed but left him a cripple. Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) is an aspiring actress whose arms are covered in cigarette burns as that’s her chosen method of fighting off sleep and Philip Bradley Gregg) a sleepwalker.  Dr. Gordon is assisted in caring for these kids with the capable help of Dr. Sims (Priscilla Pointer) and the orderly Max (Larry Fishburne) They’re joined by Kristen (Patricia Arquette) who also tried to commit suicide and nobody will listen to her story that it actually was Freddy Krueger who made her try to kill herself.

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Nobody until Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) comes to the hospital. Now a dream therapist herself, Nancy discovers that Kristen has a psychic ability to bring people into her own dreams and Nancy realizes that this may be a way to finally destroy Freddy. Especially when in a shared group dream induced by hypnosis, each member of the group discovers they have what amounts to a superpower while in the dream world. After the frightening deaths of two of the group, the survivors decide to, in the words of Kincaid himself: “go kick that motherfucker’s ass all over dreamland.” It’s a brutal and vicious battle to finally destroy Freddy Krueger not only in the dream world but in the real world as well as while Nancy and the kids are fighting Freddy on one front, Nancy’s father (John Saxon) and Neil Gordon in the real world have to find Freddy’s bones and properly bury them in order to truly be rid of him for good. It’s a battle not all of them will survive.

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There’s so many good things about DREAM WARRIORS I could easily go on for another fifteen or twenty thousand words describing them. We get the hideous origin of Freddy Krueger; “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs” The dream imagery in this one is especially memorable. There’s the scene everybody remembers where Philip is manipulated by Freddy like a puppet by means of his own blood veins which Freddy has stripped out of his body. There’s the scene where the kids discover their dream powers. The scene where an ordinary room transforms into a blast furnace with the kids trapped inside. The snake monster with Freddy’s head that tries to swallow Kristen alive.

This is also the movie where Freddy starts with the one-liners and for the first time we see him actually psychologically manipulating, terrorizing and torturing his victims in their dreams before killing them. Whereas in the first two movies he just went about the business of killing with the single-mindedness of the shark from “Jaws” in DREAM WARRIORS we see that the game of cat-and-mouse is just as important to him as the actual kill.

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The acting in this one is just perfect and I really can’t say honestly that there’s a bad performance in this one. The standouts for me include Larry Fishburne, of course, who makes the relatively minor character of Max memorable in every scene he’s in. Nan Martin as Sister Mary Helena/Amanda Krueger who has a chilling, riveting scene where she describes the circumstances of Freddy’s birth. And of course there’s Jennifer Rubin who besides being nuclear hot also makes every scene she’s in snap, crackle and pop with the characterization of Taryn as a living exposed nerve ending. The crew of young actors are all quite good as well and never overplay their scenes or for a minute do anything less than convince you of the reality of their situation.

Can you tell how much I like this movie? And I really do. Unlike “Freddy’s Revenge” which moseyed along and took its time to get where it’s going, DREAM WARRIORS fast-steps like a man late for work. It moves with a purpose and confidence that none of the other movies that came after it would have until we come to “New Nightmare” Make no mistake about it, when it comes to the sequels; A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS is the true jewel in the crown. Enjoy.

96 Minutes

Rated R

The Serpent And The Rainbow

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Universal Pictures

Directed by Wes Craven

Produced by Doug Claybourne and David Ladd

Written by Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman

Based on “The Serpent and The Rainbow” by Wade Davis

People who know me and know what I look for in horror movies say that I’m way too critical and demanding of them. Maybe so. But I’ve never been one of those who excuse the downright stupidity of the majority of horror movies simply because my friends say I’m supposed to turn off my brain and stop thinking while watching. The best horror movies and the ones I enjoy the most are the ones that do engage my brain and encourage me to not only feel but think about what’s happening up there on the screen.

The horror movies of Wes Craven are among some of my favorites. Although he has made some hideously bad movies such as “Shocker” “Vampire In Brooklyn” and “Cursed” he has also made some spectacularly good ones as well. The original “Nightmare On Elm Street” “The People Under The Stairs” the “Scream” series and what is probably my favorite Wes Craven horror movie and one people just don’t mention a lot and that’s a damn shame they don’t; THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW.

Anthropologist/Ethobotanist Dr. Dennis Alan makes a good living going into remote jungles and coming back with rare herbs and ritual drugs from native tribes that he then sells to American pharmaceutical companies. He’s extremely good at his job which is why he’s asked to go to Haiti to investigate the voodoo society and see if there’s any truth to the myth of there being some sort of secret powder that creates zombie. Alan’s mentor Dr. Schoonbacher (Michael Gough) thinks that this could lead to the secret of where the soul is located. Andrew Cassedy (Paul Guilfoyle) the head of Boston Biocorp thinks it could be the ultimate anesthetic. Cassedy claims to have proof of a man in Haiti who was poisoned with this powder, buried alive, dug up and revived as a zombie.

With the assistance of the gorgeous and brilliant Dr. Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson) and voodoo priest Lucien Celine (Paul Winfield) Dr. Alan attempts to find out if this powder does exist and if zombies are actually real. His quest brings him into conflict with Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae) the head of the feared Tonton Macoute who is also a voodoo practitioner of frightening power. As Dr. Allan goes deeper and deeper into the truth behind the zombie legend he has to navigate between the political unrest and civil turmoil of a Haiti ruled by ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier and the horrendous hallucinations tearing his mind apart placed there by the power of Peytraud. Hallucinations so overwhelming that he can no longer distinguish what is real and what isn’t.

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There are a whole lot of reason why I love THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW and why I always recommend it.  Along with “The People Under The Stairs” it’s one of the few horror movies with a predominantly African-American cast that is believable and treats the characters as human beings and not plot devices to be killed off to make the Caucasian heroes look good. Cathy Tyson is a wonderfully beautiful actress who isn’t in the movie just to fall in love with the hero. She has an interesting backstory of her own as well. There’s a really nice scene where Mareille talks about how she does not divide her faith and her science but makes them work together.

I also like the political subtext in the movie. Set during the reign of ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier there’s always the threat of the secret police in the background, always reminding us that not all of Dr. Alan’s enemies are supernatural. Ah, but are they? I think it’s masterful how Wes Craven plays not only with Dr. Alan’s head but ours as well, challenging us to figure out what is real and what isn’t. Is Dr. Alan hallucinating or is what is happening to him actually happening? Is Peytroud a black magician or just really good at messing with Dr. Alan’s head?

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THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW is also excellent at showing voodoo as a legitimate religion and way of life for the people of Haiti. There are a lot of scenes that are almost documentary in nature, such as the wonderful scene of a pilgrimage where a huge image of The Virgin Mary is taken to a holy grotto. Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m no expert of voodoo but I can’t think of another horror movie where voodoo is treated with the respect of it being a religion/way of life as it is here.

And the hallucination/dream images in THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW are just as good as anything Wes Craven did in his “Nightmare On Elm Street” movies. And the scene where’s he’s buried alive is without a doubt one of the most frightening in horror movie history.

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The acting is top notch. Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson and Paul Winfield are all nothing less than believable. Zakes Mokae is an appropriately formidable bad guy while Theresa Merritt as a voodoo priestess and Brent Jennings as a con man who may or may not know how to make the zombie powder do solid work as supporting characters.

So should you see THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW? Absolutely. It’s that rarest of creatures I always look for and treasure so much when I find it: a believable horror movie. The motivations of the characters make sense and they don’t act like idiots who are plainly being manipulated by a brain dead scriptwriter more concerned with his plots twists than telling a story. THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW makes a great double feature with “Angel Heart” in that for me, they are both horror movies in which the main character seeks the solution to a mystery that ultimately turns out to be more horrifying than the mystery itself.

98 minutes

Rated R

Cursed

2005
Dimension Films

Directed by Wes Craven
Produced and Written by Kevin Williamson

This is the shortest review I’ve ever written. Sit up straight and pay attention.

I had always believed that “The Blue Lagoon” was the worst movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Then I saw CURSED.

If you see stacks of CURSED DVDs in the $3 bargain bin at Wal-Mart, FYE or Target, trust me that they are there for a reason. CURSED is without a doubt one of the overall worst movies I have ever seen to date. That Wes Craven has his name on it totally baffles me because Wes Craven knows how to make a horror movie and this piece of utter trash barely qualifies. CURSED is not even worth seeing for Christina Ricci who looks absolutely gorgeous and she turns in the best acting job she can do along with Joshua Jackson. The both of them do the best they can with what they’ve got. The only reason why I can think they participated in CURSED is because of contractual obligations or they had mortgage payments due and needed the paycheck. I can respect them for that.

You’ve been warned. I take no responsibility if you decide to disregard my warning so it’s on you. I wasted an hour and 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back so you don’t have to. Even if you get a chance to see it for free do not watch CURSED. It’s not even a good bad movie. Its total trash and a waste of your time.

I’m gonna say it one more time. Do not watch CURSED.

P.S.: Since watching this movie I have indeed found one worse than this, believe it or not

97 minutes

Rated R